The trifecta of Thanksgiving. The null, the null (made from the drippings and turkey stock) and the stuffing. I know people love other things on the table, like cranberry sauce, sweet and mashed potatoes, but you can remove any of those items and it still looks like the Thanksgiving table.
However, we all know that Thanksgiving needs turkey; turkey needs stuffing; stuffing needs gravy.
I didn’t grow up with stuffing. At least not bread stuffing. The Europeans don’t do bread stuffing. My mom’s family stuffed whatever bird they had with either rice or meat. So, once we were in the States, the Thanksgiving turkey also was the recipient of rice stuffing in the main cavity and meat stuffing in the back.
Enter marriage to my Ohio-born, all-American, stuffing-loving husband. I got out of learning to make stuffing for the first half dozen years of our marriage because we traveled; one year to my parents house, the next year to his. At my parents’, he opted for the mashed potatoes, not much caring for the unique-tasting rice stuffing. At his parents’, I avoided the bread stuffing and tried spreading the other stuff around so its absence wouldn’t be noticed on my plate.
Again, a new face brought about more change. Dudette plopped into our lives and now, instead of going to my in-laws for Thanksgiving, they come here. It behooves me to learn how to make stuffing.
This is made outside the turkey. Yes, it’s called stuffing. I know there’s a stuffing vs. dressing debate, but I’m not getting in the middle of it. The magazine calls it stuffing, so I’m calling it stuffing.
To begin, you need the beautiful null that you made earlier during the day. If you don’t have that, go back, make some, and then we can continue.
Start by sauteing onion and celery in a lot of butter. Add a little seasoning and let it spit and sizzle until soft. When done, toss it with the bread, some chopped celery leaves and (a moment of silence please) chopped sage. I love sage. While the stuffing is cooling, think about how wonderful an herb sage is.
Ready to move on? If so, whisk together the cup of turkey stock with an egg, then toss it with the bread mixture. Pour into the baking dish, dot with butter, cover with foil and bake. Ten minutes before the dish is done, remove the foil so the top can get a little crispy.
I am evolving into a bread stuffing fan. There; I’ve said it aloud. I really enjoyed this. In fact, I liked it better cooked outside the bird because of the crunchiness that developed from leaving the top off a while and the bottom getting properly cooked. Can you see the crusty stuff in the bottom of the dish? I loved that.
Hubby did enjoy this, but as with many things, it was hard not to compare it to his mom’s which made it come up short. Dudette also ate her serving. I made sure to give her the crunchy top part because she’s a huge crouton fan and that was a good call. The only negative I heard was when she bit into a piece of bread that she said was slimy. No one likes slimy stuffing and I’m still learning.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
I really can’t say what I’d do different since I’m still new at making bread stuffing. I’ll keep practicing though. I’ll probably even practice with this one again.
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 good-quality baguette (1/2 lb), cut into 1-inch cubes (8 cups)
1/3 cup chopped celery leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped sage
1 cup turkey stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in lower third. Butter a 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish or gratin dish.
Cook onion and celery in 6 tablespoons butter with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with bread cubes, celery leaves, and sage, then cool 5 minutes. Whisk together stock and egg (if stock is hot, gradually whisk into egg), then toss with bread mixture until absorbed. Transfer to baking dish and dot top with remaining tablespoon butter.
Bake, covered with foil, 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until top is golden, about 10 minutes more.